As the school year begins, it is fitting and timely to call attention to an educational visionary and provocative thinker who recently passed away. For over a half century Seymour Papert led the call for schools to empower students to have greater control over their learning.
Seymour Aubrey Papert (February 29, 1928 – July 31, 2016) was a South African-born American mathematician, computer scientist, and educator, who spent most of his career teaching and researching at MIT. He was one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, and of the constructionist movement in education. He was co-inventor, with Wally Feurzeig, of the Logo programming language. (Wikipedia)
In the early 70s, long before laptops or even desktop computers, Papert saw the enormous potential and power of young people freely exploring and learning from and with this powerful new technology.
Beyond his advocacy for the integration of technology in schools, Papert vehemently believed that in any context, learning must firmly be in the hands of the learner.
The scandal of education is that every time you teach something, you deprive a student of the pleasure and benefit of discovery.
Papert was a visionary who had and continues to have a profound influence on the progressive direction schools have taken. The more we understand the workings of the brain and how learners learn best, the more Papert’s ideas about learning by doing and student empowerment take hold.
In the tradition of the great educational minds like John Dewey, Seymour Papert challenged educators to rethink the traditional school model, to “break away from the old patterns, where children were born as learners, they learned from their own energy until they went to school, and when they went to school, the first thing they had to learn was to stop learning and begin being taught.”
You can’t teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it.